ALMOST four million people in the UK have used a foodbank, the results of a poll published last week suggest.
The study, commissioned by The Independent, says that one in 14 of those questioned had had to use a foodbank. Seven per cent of the 1050 British adults polled said that they had used a foodbank, which could mean that 3.7 million people have used foodbanks in the UK to receive a meal.
The director of policy and research at the Trussell Trust, Gary Lemon, called the figures “deeply concerning”. He said: “Last year, our network alone provided 1.3 million supplies to people across the UK: this is just not right. If we’re to end hunger, we need to go to the root of why people are struggling to stay above water, and ensure that adequate financial support is in place whenever it’s most needed.”
It comes after a survey earlier this year which suggested that one in every four parents is worried about not having enough to eat (News, 2 February). In the survey of 2032 adults, commissioned by the coalition End Hunger UK, 23 per cent of parents of children under the age of 18, and 27 per cent of parents of primary-school-aged children, said that they had either skipped a meal or seen someone in their household skipping meals.
A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), Destitution in the UK, also published last week, says that, while levels of destitution reduced by 25 per cent between 2015 and 2017, more than 1.5 million people were in destitution at some point in 2017, including 365,000 children. The JRF says that many of those in destitution were there because of social security policies and practices.
For those who experienced destitution, food was the most commonly cited item that was lacking: 62 per cent of the group surveyed by the JRF said that they had gone without it in the past month.
The report says that “a large increase in those reporting reliance on in-kind help from charities/churches is particularly concerning, given evidence of the humiliation this entails”.
One man interviewed for the study was quoted as saying: “I went to the vicar quite a lot, and he helped me with food and stuff, and chip shops were giving us free food: chips and fish and chips free.”
The chief executive of the JRF, Campbell Robb, said: “Many of us rely on public services such as social security when hit with unexpected circumstances like job loss, relationship breakdown, or ill health. Yet actions by Government, local authorities, and utility companies are leading to ‘destitution by design’: forcing people into a corner when they are penniless and have nowhere to turn. This is shameful.
“Social security should be an anchor holding people steady against powerful currents such as rising costs, insecure housing and jobs, and low pay, but people are, instead, becoming destitute, with no clear way out.”
At the beginning of the month, a report, Not Making Ends Meet, suggested that people in crisis were increasingly turning to foodbanks and voluntary agencies for help instead of support schemes run by local authorities (News, 1 June).